Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee Make History at the Tony Awards

At this year’s Tony Awards, actors J. Harrison Ghee and Alex Newell made history by becoming the first openly nonbinary artists to win acting awards.

Ghee won the award for best lead actor in a musical for playing Jerry/Daphne in Casey Nicholaw’s Some Like It Hot. Newell won the award for best featured actor in a musical for playing Lulu in Jack O’Brien’s Shucked.

Ghee was thankful for their upbringing and the belief that their skills were meant to make a difference in the world. They dedicated their win to all trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people who were told they couldn’t be seen or be themselves. They said that Some Like It Hot pushed against these limits.

In an interview with Variety, Ghee talked about their choice to enter as a major actor for their role in Fox’s anthology series Accused at both the Tony Awards and this year’s Primetime Emmys. They said that playing is not a job for men or women, and they liked that they could choose how they wanted to be known. Ghee thought that their choice showed that they were sure of themselves and their work.

In their award speech, Newell thanked Broadway for recognizing them and their success, even though they are gay, non-binary, fat, Black, and from Massachusetts. They told people who doubted their own skills that they could do anything they set their minds to.

In another interview with Variety, Newell said that they chose to participate in the category for supporting actor because the word “actor” does not specify a gender. They said that acting has nothing to do with gender and that it is an art form with no limits.

The first performance of Shucked took place on April 4 at the Nederlander Theatre. Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally wrote the music and lyrics, and Robert Horn wrote the book.

Even though the 76th Tony Awards didn’t have a script because of a deal, they still went on, so people could see how well the host, Ariana DeBose, could sing and dance on the spot.